“Homemade Films Brings New Projects to Venice, Boards Mahdi Fleifel’s ‘Men in the Sun’ (EXCLUSIVE)

12th September 2022 by Marta Balaga

Greece’s Homemade Films has boarded Mahdi Fleifel’s upcoming feature “Men in the Sun,” currently in the final stages of development. The story, set in Athens, will deal with masculinity, exile and loss, showing young refugees in their 20s hustling to survive in the urban pressure cooker.

The company is also ready to start shooting Sofia Exarchou’s “Animal,” co-producing with Nabis Filmgroup, Ars Ltd., Digital Cube and Felony Productions.

Furthermore, its founder Maria Drandaki recently presented new projects at Venice Gap-Financing Market. “Arcadia,” directed by Yorgos Zois, will see Homemade Films joining forces with Foss Production and Red Carpet. “Titanic Ocean” by Konstantina Kotzamani will be shot in Japan and Singapore in 2023.

“I’m very excited to be working with this group of directors on a variety of different genres that span from drama to fantasy and mystery,” says Drandaki. She added that she is very interested in working with international filmmakers like Dubai-born Fleifel, who lives and works between Denmark, England and Greece.

“All of them have already taken their first, confident steps and with their upcoming films they will confirm their presence as some of the most promising directors from Europe. All these films offer unpredictable points of view, creating new cinematic landscapes.”

“I’m always interested in the unexpected, original and non-conventional,” she adds. “I can’t wait to see these films on the big screen.”

In 2012, Fleifel shot the acclaimed documentary “A World Not Ours,” awarded in Berlin. Later, he was nominated for a BAFTA for his short “A Drowning Man.”

“Men in the Sun,” co-written by Fleifel and Jason McColgan, is produced by Inside Out Films’ Geoff Arbourne, with Maarten Van der Ven, Layla Meijman and Frank Barat co-producing alongside Drandaki.

“Throughout the last decade spent documenting the streets of Athens, I have become intimately familiar with my characters’ universe: the basement flats, squats, crowded streets. It’s an unruly city, full of energy and visual noise, which makes it a fascinating setting,” says the helmer.

Exploring a friendship that gradually dissolves under pressure, Fleifel borrowed the title from Ghassan Kanafani’s novella about Palestinian refugees traveling to Kuwait and hoping to find work.

“You could say that my film is spiritually connected to Kanafani, whose other title ‘A World Not Ours’ I also borrowed. But it will be a loose, modern adaptation where Athens turns into an urban desert,” he says, mentioning “Lord of the Flies” and Larry Clark’s “Kids” as important inspiration, as well as his own background.

“I’m the son of refugees myself. I was only nine years old when my family fled war-torn Lebanon for a safer life in Scandinavia. My work always deals with themes of exile. But ‘Men in the Sun’ is a crime thriller, and that’s something I haven’t seen before,” he states.

“This genre is our starting point. It represents a common language the audience recognizes, so they know what to expect. My role as a filmmaker, however, is to turn things upside down,” he adds.

“It’s the exiles and the unwanted versus the natives, the nationalists and fascists in present-day Europe.” But he isn’t interested only in conflict.

“I would like to think that despite what seems like an eternity of hopelessness, there is still humor [in the film]. These kids are full of life and they possess a playful energy that insists on living. Without this, how else could they survive? I want to leave the audience with the feeling that hope exists, even in the most hopeless circumstances.”

Ultimately, Fleifel is hoping for the film to enter the festival circuit, but also to enjoy a “fruitful, commercial life.”

“As long as I can satisfy my own cinematic taste, as well as that of my dear mother, I can say I have succeeded,” he jokes.

This article is from Variety and is republished under a creative commons license.

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